iGEM Grenoble 2012

Legend :
Get deeper into safety

Information you have to read

Explanation of methods
ContextWhat we had to doMore about synthetic biology in France


The context

In France, prevention is described in the labor code. The law n°91-1414 of December 31, 1991 was put in place after the introduction of the European Directive 89/391/CEE of June 12, 1989. Prevention measures have to follow the nine general principles given by this law. The General Principles of Prevention are set out in descending order of preference as follows:

  • Avoid risks
  • Evaluate unavoidable risks
  • Combat risks at source
  • Adapt work to the individual, especially the design of places of work
  • Adapt the place of work to technical progress
  • Replace dangerous articles, substances, or systems of work by non-dangerous or less dangerous articles, substances, or systems
  • Plan the prevention by taking into account (according to their importance):
    • The techniques
    • The work organization
    • The work conditions
    • Social relation between people and external factors
  • Use collective protective measures over individual measures
  • Give of appropriate training and instruction to employees

We tried to use those principles when we worked on the safety of our project.

We also tried to follow all the European legislations and more precisely the following directives and French laws and decrees:

  • Directive 2009/41/EC on the contained use of genetically modified microorganisms
  • The French decree of July 18, 1994 establishing the list of biological pathogens
  • The French decree n°94.352 of May 4, 1994 on the protection of workers against risks arising from exposure to biological agents
  • The French decree of July 16, 2007 laying down the technical preventive measures, including containment, to be implemented in research laboratories, teaching, analysis, anatomy , surgical pathology, autopsy rooms, industrial and agricultural establishments where workers are likely to be exposed to biological pathogens.

Finally we used the international recommendations of the World Health Organization.

What we had to do

According to the legislation, rules and procedures have to be put in place:
  • Inform people about risks they can be exposed to
  • Organize the work and write procedures:
    • Use techniques limiting the creation of aerosols
    • Make different areas in the laboratory depending on the activity
    • Decontaminate biological waste and all devices used
  • Make personal protective equipment available
  • Eating, drinking, smoking must be forbidden in the laboratory
  • Set up hygiene measures
  • Make a safety visit for new comers

More about synthetic biology in France

France put into place the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Options (OPECST) in order to keep legislators informed of technological advances and the impact these advances could have. This authority was created by the Law n° 83-609 of July 1983. Its mission is to inform the Parliamentarians regarding the consequences of a science field and/or a technology, so they can take decisions knowing the ins and outs. To this end it collects information, implements programs of study and conducts assessments.

France carried out a study on synthetic biology and a part of it deals with risk prevention.This study led many researchers to argue about the fact that synthetic biology does not present more risk than genetic engineering or systems biology. Indeed, others means can be used to produce hazardous compounds in laboratories. The crux of the matter is that synthetic biology frightens people. One important fact which was put into relief by this study is that “people are more frightened by virtual risks than real risks”. For instance, only 17% of French people are not worried about GMO whereas almost 30% are not anxious of driving in a car. However the risk to be injured in a car accident is higher than being injured by GMO.

Synthetic biology is not known of the general public, and even scientists cannot properly define this activity. The acceptance problem lies in the very definition of the discipline and in its fundamental description.

The risk perception regarding a new technology strongly depends on the description and explanation made to the public. In all cases, we must distinguish between ethics, people’s risk perception and the risk assessment, which must be as objective as possible. This is what we intended to do.